God has a great sense of humor. In 2001, He gives America George W. Bush as its 43rd president. After eight years of the Texan’s failed leadership, God turns the country over to Barack Hussein Obama, a bright African American son of a Kenyan man.
Obama leads America out of a very deep recession, ends an unnecessary war in Iraq, brings the troops home and eliminates Osama bin Laden, America’s foremost enemy.
His eight years in the White House are a class act. With the support of his equally dignified and intellectually gifted wife Michelle, he weathers an onslaught of opposition and sabotage by his Republican opponents with grace and statesmanship.
His calm and dignified presence restores many Americans’ pride in their country. His respect for other countries, plus an understanding of human diversity restores America to its venerable status as the leader of the free world. Obama is adored like royalty abroad, even in the lands of the European people.
Throughout his leadership, Obama is verbally bullied and abused by Donald John Trump, a wealthy New Yorker who capitalizes on the ignorance of a racist segment of the population, questioning the birthplace of the president, an attempt to delegitimize Obama’s presidency. It is a rejection of an African American as leader of a country that, in the Trump worldview, is a European’s land.
To Trump and his cohorts, America is a “disaster”, in urgent need of salvage by a competent leader, one with the right “background.”
We know the message. Two words: White supremacy. But God is watching. He wants a good laugh, even as he bursts the myth.
After Obama’s eight years, God brings in Trump, a man very different from Obama, and not simply in terms of their complexion.
Obama is calm, reflective, attentive, cerebral, well read and knows that his words matter. Trump is inattentive, impulsive and hyperactive and given to issuing gross falsehoods. His latest is an imaginary terrorist attack in Sweden that never happened.
Obama is psychologically secure and is uninterested in claiming credit alone even for his outstanding accomplishments. Trump is very insecure and narcissistic, with an excessive need for admiration, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and grandiose notions of his place in American history.
Obama respects the news media, accepts criticism and takes opposition and challenge in stride. Trump, so thin-skinned that he interprets all criticism and unflattering news reports as the work of enemies, declares war against the news media.
Obama’s White House has been all order, purpose and calmness. Trump turns the place into a frenetic, chaotic factory of “alternative facts” and “incomplete information.”
Obama leaves the White House with no personal scandals. Trump starts his term dogged by multiple scandals and legal suits, with a big one – Russiagate- emerging before he finishes unpacking.
Obama, a former part-time professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School, has spent eight years abiding by institutional rule, fully respectful of the powers of the other branches of the United States Government.
Trump, in power for just one month, has already demonstrated a deep contempt for the constitution of the United States, including his attack on a judge and his war against journalists whose freedom is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
Still a newcomer to the White House, Trump’s actions affirm the wisdom of America’s founders in entrenching institutional, not personal, rule in their country.
The US Constitution was designed to make it very difficult for any of the three braches of the government to arrogate to itself the kind of powers enjoyed by the world’s autocrats and dictators.
Now, a constitution is meaningless if undermined, corrupted and subverted by the rulers. It is a mere piece of paper unless the citizens embrace it, promote it, live by it and defend it against any and all attempts to dispense with its provisions.
Had any one of America’s first six presidents been possessed of the mental character of the 45th president, the trajectory of American democracy and history would have been very different.
These six men – George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams – in charge during their nation’s fragile early years, cemented traditions that would thwart the autocratic tendencies of any of their successors.
And just as well, for the seventh president, Andrew Jackson, was a military general whose ways would have been familiar to post-colonial Africans.
President Jackson often attempted to enforce his views by force. Given an easily cowed civil society and/or a weak congress and judiciary, Jackson might well have adopted an imperial presidency. Strong institutions checked him.
It is way too early to tell what kind of presidency Trump will ultimately offer, but the early signs suggest that he may attempt to sabotage institutional rule in his quest for an imperial presidency.
His conduct affirms our view that successful and mature democracies are less the work of individuals in power than they are a product of entrenched institutional rule.
Trump also dispels the myth of “white supremacy” better than the best efforts of the great essayists on the subject.
The Obama-Trump succession is a fascinating study in contrasts, with everyday giving one reason to smile. Meanwhile, the observant racists cringe at their champion’s pulverization of their misguided creed.